PTC’s hiring process: Now you can know

Tue, 03/11/2008 - 4:14pm
By: The Citizen

Peachtree City residents now know a whole lot more about the man expected to soon be named its new police chief.

Through Georgia’s open records laws, The Citizen has obtained information on H.C. “Skip” Clark, currently serving as police chief in Juno Beach, Fla., a department he’s worked for since 1980.

The information was released pursuant to a Georgia law that requires government agencies to release the information it has compiled on the top three candidates for such executive positions.

It is a good law, as it arms citizens with information on those who would be appointed to such high positions of authority.

The law actually dictates that the city release information on its top three candidates, but in this case — of the four finalists — the three other candidates backed out and in doing so their information is kept private by the city, also as allowed by the law.

The position of police chief in Peachtree City is of paramount significance because of the position’s power and effect on the city. So it’s a good idea that Georgia’s legislature empowers the people to do some digging on their own before an agency such as the City Council actually votes to hire police chiefs and the like.

While some might argue this law “scares off” qualified candidates, there are sufficient safeguards in the system to prevent it from running away the most qualified candidate.

For example, any candidate has the right to ask city officials if he is considered the top candidate or not. Armed with that information, the candidate can make his or her mind up to stay in the race or drop out.

In this case, that’s exactly what happened — the top preliminary pick remained.

As for Clark, he’s coming from a much smaller town (and smaller police department) than Peachtree City, but we can see some of the reasons he may be favored among city officials. Mainly, his department has attained the national accreditation offered by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies.

Also, in response to a slate of burglaries last year, Clark’s department offered community meetings to foster a sense of alertness to criminal activity. His department also maintained a list of residents who would need physical assistance in evacuating should a hurricane or other natural disaster predicate the need.

Such proactivity is usually just a good thing. In recent years under former Chief James Murray, the Peachtree City Police Department has “opened up” more to the community, hosting citizen’s police academy courses as well as training for community emergency response teams that could assist police and emergency crews should a disaster strike.

Without Georgia’s law requiring such executive candidates to be revealed, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now. Instead, the law adds another layer of trust to the system and gives a last-minute chance for citizens to have an effect on choosing the person who will be Peachtree City’s next police chief.

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